Carl Andress most recently directed the world premiere of Charles Busch’s critically acclaimed Off-Broadway comedy "The Divine Sister." His other Off-Broadway directing credits include the New York premiere of "The Third Story," starring Kathleen Turner, which he also directed at the La Jolla Playhouse; the New York premieres of "Die, Mommie, Die!," "Shanghai Moon," and "Queen Amarantha," which marked his Off-Broadway debut as both director and actor.
Andress staged the New York premiere of Sheldon Harnick and Joe Raposo’s musical "A Wonderful Life," which was listed in Time magazine’s “Top 10 of Theater” of 2005”; "I Love My Wife" for the York Theatre Company’s “Musicals in Mufti” series; "The Cartells" for Drama Dept., and numerous galas and special events, including "Being Comden & Green" for the 92nd Street Y's Lyrics & Lyricists series and the recent all-star staged reading of "Valley of the Dolls." Among Andress’ regional directorial credits are productions of "The Tale of the Allergist’s Wife" at Coconut Grove Playhouse, Paper Mill Playhouse, and Royal Poinciana Playhouse. He has also staged works at the Perry Street Theater, Abingdon Theater Company, the Ohio Theater and many others.
Andress wrote, performed and directed the award-winning "It's Not My Fault, It Was On Fire When I Got There," which premiered at Theater for the New City. He is also the author of "Anyone for Double Dutch?," which was created for LA's Fringe Benefits touring production. He is the co-writer and costar of the independent film, "A Very Serious Person," which was honored at the 2006 Tribeca Film Festival and is available on DVD. Carl is a graduate of the University of New Hampshire's Department of Theatre and Dance.
Currently you can see Carl's brilliant direction with "The Mad Show" from July 29-31 as part of The York Theatre Company's "Musicals in Mufti" series. "The Mad Show" will star fellow "Adaumbelle's Quest" participant Christine Pedi along with Stephanie D'Abruzzo, Chris Hoch, Tally Sessions, and Steven Strafford. Click here for tickets! The York Theatre is located at 619 Lexington Avenue, corner of 54th Street.
1. Who or what inspired you to become a director? I think it was very clear to all who knew me as a child that I was going to become a director, by the way I bossed my neighborhood playmates around in my backyard and forced them to do shows with me on our back porch. These offerings often consisted of me playing original cast recordings from my mom’s extensive LP collection, while we sang along or lip-synced and then improvised the rest of the story in between tracks. I made those kids do everything from "Carousel" to "Man of La Mancha" to "Golden Boy." Thus, my biggest inspiration, I would have to say, would be my mother, Catherine. Besides having been Miss NH in the 1969 Miss America Pageant, and later the queen bee of the local theater scene, in Nashua, NH where I grew up, she has always loved the theater – everything from performing to producing to even selling concessions at intermission. She still loves the community expression of it all and that’s what I love too: people coming together to tell and experience a story at the same place and time.
Growing up it seemed like we were always going out to see some production or other, either locally or every so often to Boston or New York City where we have family. Plus my parents both were theater critics for most of the 1980’s in the greater Boston area, so that meant that we saw a lot of shows together and always had lively discussions afterwards as to what we liked and what we didn’t like and I would often give my big fat opinions on how they could have “made it better.” The cold eye of youth is like an icy scalpel! Plus I was studying everything I could find about the theater because my folks also belonged to a mail order book club called the Fireside Theater, so we had tons of theater reference books and play scripts in our house and I devoured them. I was also quite fortunate to have several mentors growing up and later on in college who would continually point me in the direction of becoming a professional director.
2. Who is the one person you haven't worked with that you would like to? I do have an idol that I’ve always wanted to work with, in some capacity or other and that is Mr. Hal Prince. To me he has always been the king and I have always thought of him as a producing and directing genius. He is the director about whom I’d always think: “that’s who I’d like to be when I grow up.” I’ve met him a couple of times and each time, no matter how cool I’d try to be, I always ended up feeling like the twelve-year-old stage-struck drama nerd that I still really am.
3. How did you get involved with the Mufti Series and what attracted you to directing "The Mad Show?" What excites you most about this upcoming production? Last year I directed the 1977 musical, "I Love My Wife," by Cy Coleman and Michael Stewart, for the York’s Musicals in Mufti Series which was an incredibly fun and fabulous experience. Who knew that heterosexual wife-swapping could be such a blast? It was also my first Mufti and I was hooked. I wanted to do more. So this past spring, Jim Morgan (Artistic Director of the York Theatre Company) called me up to say that they would be doing the next Mufti Series during the summer, focusing on off-Broadway musical revues of the past. He said he wanted me to direct "The Mad Show." Now even though I only knew a couple of the songs from it and had never actually seen the script, I immediately said yes when Jim told me that composer Mary Rodgers was going to be involved. A chance to hang out with Mary Rodgers was just too irresistible! Then I actually heard the (brilliant) album and read the hilarious script and was delighted. The material is so sharp and wicked and really, really smart.
I think I’m particularly excited about working with the deeply talented cast we’ve assembled for this Mad Show. We’ve got Stephanie D’Abruzzo, Christine Pedi, Chris Hoch, Tally Sessions and Steven Strafford -- so the talent in the room is palpable. People like these folks make my job incredibly easy.
4. How will this production be different from the 1966 version? Why do you think now is the right time to revive "The Mad Show?" What do you hope audiences come away with after seeing "The Mad Show?" Our Mufti production of "The Mad Show" will be presented more or less as a concert version of the original piece, which was sharp, anarchic, topical -- a satiric musical revue based on the ever-popular Mad Magazine, that ran for 871 performances starting in 1966. The original production, though small, was mighty, with a lot of zany scenic elements, props and costume pieces, so naturally, we have to scale things back a bit since we put the whole thing together in five days! But I hope that audiences will come away realizing that things that were funny in the mid-sixties are still funny in the early-twenty-tens. We’re presenting the material as written, with no updating. So as much as we think times have changed, they’re really not all that different…which can either be a comforting thought or a depressing existential crisis…”it’s your choice,” as they say in one of the sketches in the show. Nonetheless, "The Mad Show" is a sassy party and audiences should come prepared to have a helluva good time!
5. What is your favorite part of the rehearsal/preview period in a show? I just love it when all of the disparate elements of a production start to come together late in tech and during previews when the audiences start to come. They tell you what you’ve got. When everything up till then that has been separate now all coalesce and become “the show” that you are all creating together – it’s immensely gratifying. When the engine starts to hum, there’s no greater sensation of satisfaction. Well, at least at work…
6. What have you learned about yourself from being a director? I’ve learned that I don’t have all the answers. And that I don’t have to have all the answers and that I never will have all the answers. I used to think that the director had to know absolutely everything, but that’s not really true. A good director surrounds himself with a crackerjack team of smart and talented writers, designers and cast who all have immense gifts to offer and together you collaborate to tell the story. Everyone plays their part and the answers are thus uncovered. The director must lead but it’s best if he does not have to dictate. Leadership is absolutely crucial but wielding absolute power can be debilitating in a collaborative art form.
7. Favorite way to stay in shape? Health? Oh that. Well, I try to run for at least 30 minutes three times a week. If only watching Turner Classic Movies actually burned calories…
8. Boxers or Briefs? Depends on the weather. In summer, boxers, for purposes of air flow. In the cooler months, boxer-briefs. But always red. I swear by wearing red underwear. I was told by my Feng-Shui specialist that it keeps the chi up. Plus it’s fun to walk around with a little secret.
9. Favorite website? Huffington Post. And just discovered gothamist.com. Awesome ways to stay up on what’s current. I can get so bogged down by all things showbiz that I can lose touch with what’s going on in the world, which is never a good thing. An interesting person in an informed person. My dad is a retired newspaperman – I gotta know the scoop.
10. "Mary" or "Rhoda"? Definitely Rhoda. Rhoda had it all…she was dependable and funny and had that great apartment! And by the time she got her own show, she was back in New York and became the “Mary” of her own life. The interesting question might be “Laura Petrie or Mary Richards.” Hmmmm….
11. What's the best advice you've ever received? “If you don’t ask, you don’t know.” Meaning, don’t be afraid to ask for what you want. You can be prepared for the answer to be no, but never be afraid to ask in the first place.
12. If you could dream about anyone while you sleep, who would it be? My grandmother Agnes. My Grammie. I miss her every single day.
13. How did you and Charles Busch first some to work together? What has been the best part about working together on so many productions? I met first Charles back in 1995 when I was working backstage on the off-Broadway musical "Swingtime Canteen" and he took over the starring role. During the next couple of years we became dear friends and developed a mutual professional trust and understanding. Eventually he asked me to direct a new play he was writing. Since that first show, and to this day, what has always been the best parts about working with Charles are the mutual respect we have for one another’s talents and the instinctual shorthand that we developed early on. We’re always on the same page and if for some reason we are not, can easily get there. It makes for swift work that is truly enjoyable and satisfactory.